We have finally given up on the archaic hot-tape date stamper we had for the past five years. At the time, it seemed like a huge improvement over cutting a notch in the paper label with a Dremel tool and a straight edge - but after struggling to find spare parts for it from the Chinese manufacturer that supplied it, we found out that they are no longer in business...
So, as part of our current upgrade of our bottling line (we recently installed a newer, faster labeler and our new 5000 bottle-per-hour Comac filler will arrive in a month), we decided to go with an ink-jet printer that prints on the bottle itself. That way, we can also date-code our Gerst Amber, which never had spot for a date code.
The date stamp will be just above the height of the body label, on the part of the bottle where it begins to curve into the neck. Right now it is in a dark ink, so it's best to hold it up to a light to see it. We're looking at sourcing some lighter color inks that will give it more contrast, and still hold up in the bottle wash station after the filler.
The date code will read "BOTTLED" and then the date and time (in military time) that the beer was bottled. I personally prefer to know the date the beer was bottled, not a "best-buy" date. Beer isn't like milk - it won't go bad after a certain amount of time. Hoppy beers tend to change the fastest, with the hop aroma falling off faster than malt flavors. Bigger beers like our Yazoo SUE, and unfiltered beers like our Embrace the Funk line, will continue to evolve over time. For most of our beers, we consider 90 days (three months) to be the shelf-life.